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Monday, May 28

Beau Brummell's Gambling

Beau Brummel’s gambling addiction spelled his eventual downfall in Society. His passion for betting on everything under the sun was shared by his set, who in some instances gambled and lost fortunes overnight. One can still trace these bets, many of them personal, in the betting book at White’s, a gentleman’s club in London. In this book a gentleman recorded his private wagers, no doubt to aid his memory in case alcohol had befuddled his brain. Bets ranged from speculating on the date of a birth or death, the sex of an expected child, who would marry whom, appointments to a position, scandals, who murdered whom, and more. Here then, are a few of Mr. Brummel’s wagers:

Mr Brummel bets Mr. Irby one hundred guineas to ten that Buonaparte returns to Paris (Decr. 12th, 1812)

Mr. Brummel bets Mr. Methuen 200 gs to 20 gs that Buonaparte returns alive to Paris, (Decr. 12th, 1812)

A Capain Capel placed the following wager with Beau:

Capt. Capel bets Mr. Brummell 5 gs that Napoleon is not at the head of the French government in Paris within ten days from this day. March 15th, 1815

Even as Beau’s fortunes took a drastic turn for the worse, he managed to hide his indebtedness for a number of years. But he could not keep debt at bay forever, particularly not after his relationship with the Prince Regent soured. Eventually he was unable to pay off even the gentleman’s debts he had made. Beau’s final bet at White’s in March, 1815, “that the Bourbons are on the throne of France on May 1st next,” was marked “not paid, 20th January, 1816. (Donald A. Lowe, The Regency Underworld, p. 137.)

In 1816, Beau fled to Calais to escape his debtors. Donald A. Lowe writes,

As was customary in the period, an auction was held of the property of a ‘certain gentleman of fashion lately gone to the Continent’. Some came to watch, with no intention of buying, as is the way in every age. This marked the point of no return for Brummell, although he continued for many years to nurse false hopes of being restored to his old haunts and his former glory. In 1819 his star had sunk so low that a scion of the minor nobility at White’s – the very type of Englishman who had once treated him with such respect – wrote in the betting book,

Ld Yarmouth gives Lord Glengall five guineas to receive one hundred guineas if Mr. G. Brummell returns to London before Buonaparte returns to Paris.

To read more about Mr. Brummell on this blog, click here.

To read more about gaming houses and gentleman's clubs, click here


Rich Tseng said...

Being one of, if not, the first dandies, Brummell didn't just gamble beyond his means. His influence may have gone with the king's backing, but even when he had it he was outspending his inheritance. Being a trend-setter of non-aristocratic background, he had to be foremost in all matters of taste. From his horses to his clothes, his food to his snuff-boxes, everything was more refined, and thus oftentimes more expensive, than those of anybody else. Debts accrued here were probably what really did him in, rather than his gaming. By many accounts Brummell was probably one of the best gamblers to be found at the club, earning amounts that were as large as those he was likely to lose.

Nonetheless an interesting article, particularly since I had not known his wagers to extend towards areas (like fortunetelling) whose odds cannot be played.

yuri said...

Article is very interesting.
I think, being human its our right what to do and what not to... As far as gambling or other casino games are concerned, It must be an individual's choice.